How to write a resume

How to write a resume

Writing a resume can be intimidating. But writing the perfect resume doesn’t have to be terrifying. In fact, it can be easy — if you know what you’re doing.

What Is a Resume?

Let's define a resume. A resume is a summary of your work history, skills, and education. In this respect, a resume is different than curriculum vitae — more commonly called a CV. A CV is a complete look at your career, covering every aspect of your education, work, and experience without the restriction of the length. But a resume is a summary of those experiences and skills, and typically covers only 10 years’ worth of employment. Unlike a CV, a resume should be twisted and edited for each specific job for which you apply, and it should be just one or two pages long.

Common Types of Resumes

Most professional resume writers will tell you that there are three main types of resumes: chronological, functional and combination.

Chronological Resume: A chronological resume is a format that you’re probably the most familiar with — this is the type of resume that focuses on your recent work history above all. List your positions in reverse chronological order, with the most recent positions at the top and the oldest ones at the bottom. Ultimately, the goal is to show how your positions leading up to this point have perfectly prepared you for the role you’re applying to.

When to use:

  • to describe your career progress over time
  • to show upward career mobility
  • applying for a similar job to those on your resume

When not to:

  • you have large employment gaps in your work history
  • change jobs frequently
  • starting a second career or switching fields

Functional Resume: A functional resume, on the other hand, emphasizes the relevance of your experience. To create a functional resume, you’ll prominently feature your professional summary, your skills and a work experience section organized by how closely the positions relate to the one you’re applying to. This format is best for those who want to minimize resume gaps, or are transitioning into a new industry.

When to use:

  • to highlight a set of skills or accolades displaying those skills
  • when going back to work after an extended period
  • changing careers or fields

When not to:

  • you are an entry-level candidate that has very little work experience
  • trying to show you have climbed the corporate ladder (or grown in your field)
  • lack professional skills or certifications

Combination Resume: As you might be able to guess, a combination resume borrows from both of the aforementioned formats. You’ll combine the professional summary and skills section of a functional resume with the work experience section of a chronological resume. This format is a powerful way to stand out to recruiters by emphasizing both your experience and skills and is useful for many different types of job seekers.

When to use:

  • to show you are extremely skilled in the field you are applying
  • to show a developed skill in a specific field
  • when changing industries or careers

When not to:

  • you are an entry-level applicant
  • lack experience or a well-defined professional skillset
  • you want to make your educational background stand out.